Sugar Ray convicted but spared jail term

DUELLING appeals are set to be launched over the conviction of former ATSIC commissioner ``Sugar'' Ray Robinson, who was spared jail after being found guilty of using his position for an improper purpose.
Robinson, 62, was placed on a good-behaviour bond and ordered to repay $45,000 to the commonwealth Government arising from the 2004 sale of 10 taxpayer-funded vehicles belonging to an empire of Aboriginal corporations he once reigned over in western Queensland.
Prosecutors claimed no ATSIC approval had been obtained for the sale of the fleet and that $45,000 of the $114,000 raised had been used by Robinson to fund legal proceedings he was involved in at the time.
Robinson had sent two letters supporting the sale of the cars belonging to two Charleville-based Bidjara Aboriginal corporations. In November, Robinson will also appear in the Charleville District Court on two further charges of unlawful possession of a motor vehicle with intent to deprive.
The trial and latest charges follow an award-winning investigation by The Australian's reporter Tony Koch, with colleague Kristen Smith.
The veteran indigenous leader said yesterday he would appeal against the conviction, with commonwealth prosecutors also saying they were reviewing the outcome of the case.
``I already have a legal opinion that we have very good grounds to appeal this verdict,'' Robinson said. ``It is bullshit, it was all circumstantial evidence, there was no hard evidence. I gave advice they could sell them but it was the committee that sold the cars. I wasn't even at the meeting and I didn't benefit from the sale. I borrowed money from the new legal service. But I am going to appeal, even if I have to go to the High Court.''
Robinson said he would seek legal aid to launch the appeal.
``I have the right, just like anyone else, to launch this appeal, especially with the advice I have that I have a good case,'' he said.
When asked if Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions Chris Craigie SC would appeal against the non-custodial sentence, a spokeswoman said: ``As in all matters, the CDPP will carefully consider the outcome of the matter.''
Toowoomba District Court judge Nick Samios said that by its verdict, the jury had found that Robinson had acted intentionally dishonestly.
Robinson's barrister, Terry Gardiner, said his client had provided decades of service to the community and had been instrumental in setting up a number of Aboriginal organisations.
Judge Samios commended Robinson's years of service and said he had done much for race relations within the community.
``It is fair to say you are an unusual and exceptional man, but you did fall,'' Judge Samios said, adding that he had no alternative but to impose a term of imprisonment.
Noting that Robinson had no previous convictions of any relevance, Judge Samios sentenced him to 12 months' imprisonment but ordered he be released on condition he be of good behaviour for three years. Robinson was ordered to make $45,000 reparation to the commonwealth.